Britain is assured of at least three medals in the singles events at the European Para Table Tennis Championships in Italy after Rob Davies, Paul Davies and Sue Gilroy reached the semi-finals of their respective events.
Rob Davies avenged his London 2012 defeat at the hands of the Frenchman Jean-Francois Ducay with a battling 3-2 win in the quarter-finals, showing great character to recover from the loss of a 2-0 lead to win a dramatic fifth and final game 11-6.
“Although I have beaten Ducay a couple of times since London it is great to do it in a major championship,” admitted Davies. “Although I made hard work of it I’m so happy that I came through. I went a little bit passive in the third and fourth game but I tried some different tactics in the fifth and just upped my game a bit.”
Earlier in the day, Davies had lost only 10 points in beating Andrea Borgato from Italy 3-0 and then defeated Dmitry Lavrov of Russia 3-0 to finish top of his group. He will play the world number one and Paralympic champion Holger Nikelis tomorrow in the semi-finals.
His class 1 team mate and fellow Welshman Paul Davies received a walkover in his quarter-final when his intended opponent Endre Major of Hungary withdrew through illness.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever had a walkover,” said Davies, who won a bronze in London 2012, “and I don’t want to win a medal that way.”
Davies, from North Cornelly, had earlier beaten Ducay, the Paralympic silver medalist, 3-1, and secured his position at the top of his group with a 3-0 win over Mario Pezzuro of Italy. He will play Andrea Borgato in tomorrow’s semi-final after the Italian beat the world number two Andreas Vevera in the quarter-finals.
Sue Gilroy became the first British player to be guaranteed a medal when she won her quarter-final match against Andreja Dolinar from Slovenia 3-0 and will now play the number one seed and world number two Borislava Peric-Rankovic in tomorrow’s semi-finals.
“I’m really pleased,” said the Barnsley player. “To win 3-0 against Dolinar, coming back from 10-6 down in the second game – I’m really happy. I desperately wanted to get to play Peric and I needed to get past a really good player in Andreja to get there. It’s great to be assured of a medal but I’d like to convert it to gold if I can.”
Will Bayley suffered a surprise defeat in his second group match, losing 3-2 to an inspired Jean-Paul Montanus from the Netherlands, but ensured his progression to the knockout stages with an emphatic 3-0 win over Victor Doana from Romania.
“I feel like I’m playing quite well,” said Bayley. “Montanus is a difficult player and I didn’t take my chances; at this level you’ve got to finish matches off when you get the chance and I didn’t do it. I’m still in the draw which is the most important thing – I know that I can beat anyone so I’m happy that I am still in the competition.”
Bayley will play Ben Despineux of Belgium in the last 16 and will have to win four matches tomorrow if he is to retain his European title.
Welshman Paul Karabardak took a game off the world number one Maxym Nikolenko but then lost his final group match to Shmuel Shur from Israel 3-0. The Swansea player was knocked out of the competition as a result but can look forward to the team competition in which he will partner Bayley.
Kim Daybell had a good win over the fourth seed Ivan Karabec, the former European champion and world silver medalist from the Czech Republic, coming back from 2-1 down to win 3-2. The 21 year old medical student from Sheffield is an exciting player to watch and successfully changed tactics to secure his second win of the championships and ensure a place in tomorrow’s knockout stages.
“I knew he was going to be a really tough opponent,” said Daybell, “and I was just pleased I was able to come through in five sets. I didn’t feel too nervous at 1-2 down as I didn’t feel he was outplaying me. I just felt I needed to change a few things and luckily I was able to do that.”
Sara Head, from Beddau, had a tough first match against the Paralympic champion and world number one Anna-Carin Ahlquist from Sweden but put a 3-0 loss behind her and progressed to the quarter-finals with a 3-1 win over the Croatian Helena Dretar Karic.
“I always knew it was going to be a difficult one to start with,” said Head, “and I had to keep my head afterwards knowing she is a very good player and I needed to focus on my next match so I could get through from the group. Helena is also a very good opponent and we’ve had some great battles and today I’m really proud to have won the battle.”
Head’s class 3 team mate Jane Campbell went out of the singles at the group stage after losses to Doris Mader of Germany, the London 2012 silver medalist, 3-0, and Keziban Cakir of Turkey 3-1.
Aaron McKibbin made sure of winning his group with a 3-1 win over the Russian Arsenty Shlyndrov and will face world number six Richard Csejtey of Slovakia in the last 16.
“I was struggling with his serves a bit,” the 21 year old Londoner admitted. “I was trying to find my rhythm and I think midway through the third game I found the gear I needed and I kicked on from then. I haven’t played my best yet but I feel like I’m going into every match in a good frame of mind.”
David Wetherill has struggled to find his form in this championship and went out of the competition today after losing his second match in five sets to Danny Bobrov of Israel, although he finished on a positive note with a battling 3-2 win over Gabriel Csemy of Slovakia.
Jack Hunter-Spivey led Selcuk Cetin 2-0 in his second group match before finding the German’s greater experience too much in the final game. The 18 year old from Widnes will not qualify for the knockout stages but has played well and can take plenty of positives away from his first European Championship.
Ashley Facey Thompson won the first game against the world team gold medalist Ronald Vejverberg from the Netherlands and then lost the next three tight games to lose the match 3-1. The 18 year old Londoner has also shown great promise for the future and will compete in the class 10 team event with Kim Daybell.
All the singles events will conclude tomorrow.